Best Advocates You May Be Overlooking

by Susan Keane Baker

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression:  “We’ve all been warmed by fires we didn’t build.”  When you return to work after the holiday, why not take some time to think about people who have helped make your organization what it is today?  Retired physicians, former employees and volunteers can be excellent advocates for you in the community, as long as they continue to be engaged with you. So, how can you engage them?

As part of a 100 year anniversary celebration, Swedish Health Services in Washington filmed stories of patients and caregivers. You can see all of the stories at And they didn’t forget retired employees or volunteers! The video below shows Theresia Kalas, the Director of Housekeeping, who became a volunteer after she retired. What a tribute to her and to Swedish.

If you don’t want to create video, you could create a message board for favorite memories, as Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario Canada does for their retirees:


If you don’t want to set up a message board, you could still invite retirees to send in a photo along with their favorite memory of working for your organization.

Additional ideas to honor those who have built fires for you:

  • Invite retired members of your medical staff to attend Grand Rounds.
  • Recognize retired physicians at your Annual Medical Staff meeting.
  • Establish a process to send retired physicians a thank you card for Doctor’s Day each March.
  • Continue to send your internal newsletter to retirees.
  • Grant retiree privileges to use your Health Center Library, fitness center, cafeteria, etc.
  • Contact retirees after they’ve had enough time to take that dream vacation or clean out their closets and persuade them to begin volunteering for you.
  • Identify some retirees to form an association. Clicking on the photo below will take you to an excellent article about the benefits of a retiree association.

Click the photo to read an article about the Harvard University Retirees Association.


A “Willing to Recommend” strategy question for your consideration:

“Do you know a good gastroenterologist?” “Where should I go for my knee surgery?” Former and retired employees are frequently asked – by your prospective patients – to make recommendations. But with the passage of time, they don’t know your newer physicians. They haven’t seen your new Rehabilitation Center. Brainstorm with your team: What do you do to keep former and retired colleagues up-to-date? How do you help them continue to feel like insiders who can knowledgeably recommend your services as well as members of your medical staff?